ROAD accident death, which has been a major public concern, has not decreased even after the road safety movement of 2018, with the government having made the Road Transport Act and formed several high-powered committees which have almost fallen flat. The number of traffic accident death increased, as the police statistics show, by 57.03 per cent, injuries by 129.73 per cent and accidents by 58.94 per cent in 2019 compared with the 2018 figures. The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority in a submission to the High Court on Wednesday said that only 1,65,764 vehicles, among 4,58,359, renewed their fitness certificates till December 2019. The government in February relaxed the experience requirement for heavy vehicle driving licences giving in to the demand of the road transport associations. In view of the government’s failures, parents and relatives of road accident victims at a press conference in Dhaka on Tuesday demanded compensation and blamed the law enforcement agencies for their negligence to discipline rash driving.
The issue of compensation strongly raised by the families still remains unresolved. The latest road law, as road safety campaigners argue, has left the victims worse off than the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983 did. The ordinance provisioned for the victims to file cases against insurance providers and vehicle owners if insurance coverage was inadequate. The new law replaced this right of the victim to file cases for compensation with a right to ‘apply for compensation’ from a ‘financial aid fund’ that is to be set up with government grants, contributions from vehicle owners, fines realised under the act and grants from vehicle owners and workers’ associations. It imposes no specific compensation liability on vehicle owners whose employees cause a road accident death or injury. Such a legal ambiguity, as victim families argue, protects negligent owners. In a number of cases recently, the High Court has ordered the vehicle owners concerned to pay compensation to victims, but the owners have exploited the legal bureaucracy to avoid paying any money. The family of Rajib Hossain, who died after losing his hand after being stuck between two buses did not get any compensation over a legal wrangle after the owners of the two buses in question were ordered to pay Tk 1 crore to the family.
A system must, therefore, be developed to compensate the victims of road accident to ensure a greater accountability in the road transport sector. Such a provision, as experts have for long argued, will in turn improve road safety by making the vehicle and transport company owners and insurers support a proper driver’s training and more rigorous enforcement of vehicle fitness standards. An easy access to compensation may at least allow victim families to recover from the losses.
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